Being able to take responsibility for yourself and your actions is a huge part of growing up, and children that learn to do so early often excel in later life. So, it’s understandable that we want to teach them how to be responsible early in life. The problem? Many parents make the mistake of only use “responsibility” as a way to pressure or even guilt their children into pulling their weight around the house, and while these feelings are valid, they can create resentment and an unwillingness to take on responsibility. 

So, how do you teach your child responsibility in a way that truly benefits them and the world around them? Read on for 5 simple ways to teach your child to be more responsible. 

1. Share responsibilities, even when it’s easier and faster to do it yourself 

It’s best to start actively teaching responsibility young. How young is up to you, but somewhere between 2 and 4 years is about right for most children. You will have likely given some lessons unconsciously about responsibility, but now it’s time to start taking an active role. If your child is older, don’t panic! Just start now, and the first thing to do is start sharing your responsibilities. 

For example, if your child makes a mess or spills a drink, just say “whoops! Don’t worry, we can clean this up quickly,” and grab a paper towel for yourself and your little one. Put one in their hand and get them to mimic what you’re doing to clean up the spill. 

Make sure you do this when there are little accidents, not just when you’re annoyed. No one likes to see an entire glass of liquid spilled across their heirloom coffee table, but be conscious of not using shared responsibility as a punishment. 

2. Let them help 

We’ve all been there: you’re just trying to get something done quickly, but they want to get involved and it’s slowing you down. If you can, and you’re not actually in a rush, pause and take a breath. This is the perfect opportunity to let them take on some responsibility when they want to take it on. So, slow down, and let them help. Show them how to do it and give them their own section to work on, even if you know you’re going to have to redo it. For example, if you’re weeding in the yard, give them a section and let them go at it. If they pull up something you’d rather they hadn’t, just replant it. If they want to work while you do, buy notebooks and pens that they can use. It will be well worth it in the long run! 

3. Ask, “what’s next?” regularly 

We all have set routines we do every day, and these routines are another good opportunity to let your child take the lead. For example, instead of picking out their clothes, helping them dress, and steering them to brush their teeth in the morning, ask “what’s next?” This will allow them to think about what they need to do next to get ready for the day, rather than expecting someone else to do it for them. 

You can easily make it fun, too, by letting them choose their clothes or breakfast. You’ll find it pays off on days when you are in a rush because they’ll already know what they need to do next. (And, instead of asking them to hurry up, you can put them up to the test of completing the routine as fast as possible!) 

4. Enroll them in dance classes (or similar) 

Many dance studios have classes for little ones, typically aged 4 and up, and enrolling your child in dance classes is a great way to give them some independence and teach them discipline and responsibility. Some days, you likely will find yourself chasing them to get out the door, but try to let them take the initiative on getting to class on time and having their girls’ ballet leotard or other dance equipment ready (just make sure you double-check!). 

While at their class, they’ll not only get all the physical, social, and mental benefits of being there, but they’ll also learn essential listening skills, learn how to lead and work with others, and take responsibility for their learning. 

5. Give them an allowance  

Most adults are unequipped for properly managing their finances, and we often have hang-ups and beliefs ingrained in us about how to spend or save money that we learned through osmosis from our parents. These habits aren’t always the best, so be conscious about what you’re teaching them and start giving them an allowance now, provided they’re not young enough to put it in their mouth! 

Whether you decide to give them money or ask them to earn it is up to you, but try to infuse good money habits while letting them take responsibility and spend money how they want to. For example, you may want to teach good savings habits, but let your children spend all their money for a while on small things, and then teach them to save up for a much larger reward. Managing money—even just a little—is a great way to start teaching responsibility. 
Remember, when you’re teaching responsibility, try to keep in mind that you should teach them responsibility with things they want or have within their normal control, such as going to dance classes or spilling their drink. Don’t start making a long chore list of things you’d like them to do – try to keep “should”s out of the equation, and simply make it something they are responsible for.